Its Meaning and Necessity
One of the most abused and misused words in the English language is the word love. It is used in so many ways and has so many common meanings that most people have no clue what is meant by the word love and its true meaning. In the first letter of St. John to the Church he makes the statement:
"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God and
he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not
love does not know God; for God is love....In this is love,
not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son
to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved if God so loved us,
we also must love one another." (1 John 4:7-8&10-11)
We know what love is by how God has shown His love for us. God became a man to suffer the tortures of the damned simply and solely for our sake. He gained nothing from it for Himself He is infinite perfection and is Happiness itself. Their is nothing lacking in God and He needs nothing or no one outside Himself to be perfectly, infinitely content and Joyful. Therefore, the fact that He loves us enough to become a man for our sake is by demonstration the very essence of love. All love must conform to this image or it is not love but merely human affection. So let us define what some say is indefinable but which has been defined by God Himself who is Love.
Love is the total giving of oneself selflessly for the happiness,
welfare and fulfillment of the beloved.
Repeat this definition a thousand times until it becomes a part of you. This is the way God loves us and this is how He has commanded us to love Him and one another. The Greek word agape and the Latin word caritas (charity), both mean, giving selflessly to another for their own sake. All other forms of love must first conform to this principle of selfless giving. If they do not they can only be considered mere human affection and nothing more. Why? Because human affection, if not based upon agape, is given in the hopes the affection will be reciprocate. The motive behind mere human affection is "self" as is everything that is not of God. I remember when I was a child and into my teens I had plenty of affection for my parents, my family and my friends but I came to realize I didn't really love them in the truest meaning of that word until I was about sixteen. I remember that when I would give a gift I always thought about what I would get when my turn came around. In fact I used to make it a point to give knowing that if I didn't I couldn't expect a return on my "investment". Sadly, I think many people remain with this juvenile form of affection all of their lives.
There is another very important fact about this divine love that must be discussed. It is essentially an act of the will and not an emotion. If it were merely an emotion it would simply be human affection and should be seen as such. True love seeks the good of the other for their own sake not for what they are going to get out of it. Now it is true that genuine love can produce the deepest most intense emotions but it is not the emotion itself. Much like the Sun which generates heat and light but is not the heat and light that comes from it.
Love is, by nature, sacrificial. This is the reason that we as Catholics have the Crucifix and not just a simple cross. The image of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity nailed to the Cross, totally vulnerable, naked and with His arms outstretched is the perfect image of love. This is what love is all about and the depth of your capacity to love will depend on your willingness to be sacrificed upon this cross of love. The degree that you hold back and resist vulnerability will be the degree you are incapable of loving as God loves you and as you must love Him and others. This is His commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." This is not a suggestion but a command and necessary for salvation.